Tickets to Garth Drabinsky’s Toronto production of Athol Fugard’s The Island went on sale quietly last month at the St. Lawrence Center for the Arts. The show starts two days of previews on May 1 and opens officially May 3. It will run through June 16.
News of the coming production had been reported in June last year, but the box office was launched with a low profile that seemed at odds with Drabinsky’s early image as a high-rolling impresario. Playbill On-Line confirmed that the tickets sales began on Dec. 2 through TicketMaster in Toronto.
Much of Drabinsky's arms-length dealing with the media is believed to be an attempt to preempt further erosion of Drabinsky's image in the media following the Livent scandal of 1998.
A source at the St. Lawrence Center for the Arts (the former Bluma Appel Theatre) said there was little information on the show because “they’re strictly a rental.”
While there is a hush about the production, there is a certain thematic link between the low promotional profile for the show and text of the play. Toronto’s TicketMaster said the only promotional sketch describing the show reads, “...On Robben Island where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were incarcerated and the isolation was so total and the security was so tight that the only news that got through was whispered from mouth to ear or scribbled on tiny scrapbook paper.” *
After a June 20, press conference announcing the show last year, Drabinsky issued the following statement: "In many ways, The Island represents a thematic strain running through many of my theatrical projects over the past decade. I have always believed that art, and specifically the theatre can act as a powerful catalyst for social change. One of the most powerful influences theatre makes in a community is its extraordinary ability to fight against intolerance and prejudice, racism and bigotry, human afflictions, and to work toward building an enlightened, broad-minded society while confining its pernicious effects as narrowly as possible. Civilization may be advancing technologically at unparalleled dimensions but, regrettably, our progress is at a much slower rate when it comes to simply living compatibly side by side (emphasis added)."
Drabinsky will be a co-producer for the May 2001 revival of The Island and the play's co-authors and original Tony Award-winning stars, John Kani and Winston Ntshona, will perform in the show when it comes to Toronto.
At this time, Canadian and American authorities are still investigating the circumstances surrounding the fall of Livent where Drabinsky and his partner, Myron Gottlieb, were alleged to have cooked the books. Drabinsky has been living in Canada, presumably to thwart outstanding efforts by the United States to have him extradited and tried. A call to U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White;s office was not returned by press time.
Ticket prices range from $45 to $65. The St. Lawrence Center for the Arts is located at 27 Front Street East in Toronto. For tickets call TicketMaster at (416) 872-1111, or visit www.ticketmaster.ca.
—By Murdoch McBride